Thursday, 19 November 2015
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WHO and UNICEF have just released a new joint publication on solar fridges and freezers that is intended to provide managers in national immunization programmes with guidance on how to implement successful solar-powered vaccine refrigerator and freezer systems. It takes into account new developments in refrigerator technology like solar direct-drive (SDD) refrigerators and water-pack freezers, as well as containers with passive cooling, and is based on lessons learned during the 30 years since solar refrigerator systems were first used in immunization programmes. The document is available in English on the WHO website:

A French version will be published soon.

I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of other TechNet members on this document; please reply to this post with your comments, questions and any other feedback. Is the guidance accurate and appropriate? Is anything missing? Do you know of other resources that might also be useful to those planning to implement solar vaccine refrigerator and freezer systems?

To read "reviews" of particular PQS-prequalified solar equipment, as submitted by TechNet members, please visit the the Reviews area of the TechNet website:

For example, to read reviews of SDD refrigerators:

You can also share your own "real-world" experiences of equipment by clicking "Add new review" for a particular device (you will need to be signed in).Sharing such practical knowledge of these systems with others may, I suspect, be of equal or even greater usefulness than the guidance document itself.

I have attached a PDF of "Figure 5. Selecting the most appropriate energy source for vaccine refrigeration" as members also might find this of particular interest/use. This decision tree is an updated version of the one included in Section E003.5 of the WHO PQS Devices Catalogue.

8 years ago

In addition to the new UNICEF-WHO publication on solar refrigerators and freezers, there are several other useful resources relating to introducing solar cold chain equipment to national immunization programmes. I have created a collection of these resources here:

One of the resources listed is a document entitled 'The 11 Commandments of a proper introduction of solar cold chain equipment', which provides some useful guidance based onlessons learned by AMP in introducing solar cold chain equipment for vaccine management in Benin. Several pertinent Project Optimize publications are also listed. I would encourage other TechNet members to share resources not listed in the above collection they think may be of interest.

Dear TechNet followers,

I hope you are well! The document, called the 11 Commandments of a proper introduction of solar cold chain equipment, provides the lessons learned that I, while working with AMP, have learned from the installations of solar refrigerators in Benin. I and AMP thought it was necessary to share the lessons with countries as all of them are or will be in the process of transitioning from absorption refrigerators to solar ones (SDD or with batteries for some countries). The document was disseminated late 2013 and mid-2015 to a group of supply chain managers from national governments, UN agencies and NGOs.

I and AMP learned a lot of lessons and the three primary ones we learned are the following:

  1. The importance role of having specialized experts in solar refrigeration. AMP had recourse to SELF to help not only AMP; but also Benin, to have a few MoH trained staff in the installation and maintenance of solar refrigerators. AMP has developed a short course on the same topic to help countries in their “solarisation” process and this course has been implemented in few countries and at the LOGIVAC Centre housed at the Regional Institute of Public Health in Ouidah, Benin.
  2. The importance of conducting a pre-installation visit which will significantly contribute in developing the bill of materials (BOM) for each installation. It is during these visits that the team will determine where and how (pole or roof) the photovoltaic panels will be placed; where the refrigerator will be installed (this is important to determine if the refrigerator can easily enter the room or if there is a need for masonry work); the cable length which may be longer than the standard length that manufacturers are recommended to give etc.
  3. The additional funding necessary for the installation of each refrigerator. The costs needed to install a solar refrigerator are not limited to the pure acquisition, shipping and in-country distribution. There are other additional costs that need to be budged if one would like to succeed this transition phase.

In this period where countries are encouraged to transit to solar refrigerators, mainly the direct drive one, it becomes important that they have the necessary supports to assist them in this transitory phase. The guidelines such as the recent WHO and UNICEF “Introducing solar-powered vaccine refrigerator and freezer systems - A guide for managers in national immunization programmes” and trainings (AMP training) provide a significant support, but so are the experiences from other countries. Hence, it will be nice if other countries and partners could share their lessons as well!

This is an exciting period as we find ourselves exactly in the same period where CFC free refrigerators were introduced in mid 1990s. We need the support from all partners, UN agencies, NGOs, Private sector to help countries succeed this “solarisation” process! So I will very much appreciate if you could disseminate this document and other guides/articles to all key stakeholders, primarily the government officials.


7 years ago

This ia a really excellent paper that will, I'm sure help national management teams that are considering purchase of solar refrigerators for vaccines. The paper has been needed for a long time, several years, and many lessons have been learned the hard way! Now, just a general comment on future trend...

The descriptions of the different types of refrigerator are listed, as we always do, without hinting that vaccine refrigerator types are likely to merge in the coming years! Once absorption equipment disappears I think we shall see just one refrigerator type. Today's ILRs will merge with SDDs and be fitted with 'on-board' voltage stabilization. This 'hybrid', without icepack freezing, will meet the needs of a world where energy sources are changing rapidly. Stand-alone solar refrigeration is needed where there is no electricty, grid electricity is spreading uncertainly and with quality problems in many countries. Grid-linked solar generators will deploy lower cost, more reliable and environmental energy for all essential needs in health facilities. Governments are already preparing for such systems. (Tunisia, Optimize Project)

The hybrid vaccine refrigerator, having long holdover-time and remaining stable even with unreliable electricity will meet the needs of health centers but also the growing needs of districts and some regions. Multiple refrigerators of this type may be assembled in a cold-store with the necessary controls and monitoring without resorting to installing cold rooms and standby generators. Avoiding cold rooms where storage needs are about 1m3/net simplifies installation and building works (no contractors or new buildings), no generator maintenance and fuel bill. 'Clusters' of hybrid refrigerators will be monitored locally and remotely, offering a more effective prevention of failures and more efficient management of failures.

Question! Could the energy selection chart in this guide become redundant - simplicity in our life would be welcome!

7 years ago

This publication on solar refrigerators and freezers is very relevant considering the trend in the use of SDD vaccine refrigerators. Just would like to share some coments and suggestions to make the document more useful. After the installation of solar powered refrigeration units the solar panels or solar arrays are subjected to winds and other climatic changes and there are possibilities that the tilt and orientation of solar arrays may have changed. The tilt and orientation of solar panels are very important parameters for an effective operations of SDD or battery powered refrigeration system. This was mentioned in Annex A section 6 but not mentioned in the corrective maintenance and repair in section 7.3. Kindly advise if these two parameters are included in other or future documents.

7 years ago

Nous sommes heureux de vous announcer que la publication du guide pour l’ introduction aux systèmes de réfrigération et de congélation à l’énergie solaire pour les vaccins est maintenant disponible en Français sur the site de l’OMS en suivant le lien:

Ce guide est à l’intention des responsables des programmes nationaux de vaccination et a pour objectif de donner aux pays les éléments nécessaires à la mise en place avec succès de systèmes de réfrigérateurs et congélateurs à énergie solaire. Il tient compte des tout nouveaux développements technologiques comme les réfrigérateurs ou combinés réfrigérateurs/congélateurs solaires à alimentation directe ou les containers isothermes à réfrigération passive. Ce document est basé sur les leçons apprises ces 30 dernières années depuis que les premiers systèmes solaires ont été utilisés.


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